putting skin on the sermon: walk in the light

 

Sunset-2013-11-11Yesterday morning’s sermon worked out of John 12.35-36. In that passage, Jesus paints a mental picture for the crowd:

“The light is with you for only a little while. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going. As long as you have the light, believe in the light so that you might become people whose lives are determined by the light.”

The image is of someone walking with purpose, and perhaps with a bit of hustle, trying to get to their destination, before nightfall (“walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you”). Their way may not be familiar to them and could even hold any number of problems that could leave them vulnerable. Such a person has one objective in mind: to avoid the delay and the possible dangers that would come from getting lost (“those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going”). Consequently, every decision they make, every step they take along the way, they make on the amount of light they still have at the moment. They are “people whose lives are determined by the light.”

Jesus claimed to be the light in our life:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8.12)

There is no time for delay in choosing to believe him and walk with him, in his light. Time is not our friend and neither is darkness. He urges us to “… believe in the light so that” so that we will “become people whose lives are determined” by him. If we do so, he will bring us safely to where we belong: home with him.

So how can we walk daily, and all day long, with such clear purpose and determination? Here are three things that can assist you in your journey.

1. Start each day well in your heart. That is, start with Christ your Lord clearly in focus. Get your mind right and the rest will follow. One way to do this is to make a portion of Scripture a point of reflection and meditation as soon as you get up in the morning. Here’s an exercise to get you started with that habit: take a few minutes to watch the day dawn, moving from darkness to light, meditating on Ephesians 5.8-9 as you do so. Do this every day for a week. This passage reads:

“You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth.”

2. Take a few moments throughout the course of each day to deliberately recall the true Lord to whom you belong. Think of such as something like a soft reset or reboot of your operating system, your spirit.

“All of you are children of light and children of the day. We don’t belong to night or darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5.5)

Remember some of the horizontal blessings you enjoy because of your walk with the Lord and thank him for such.

“… if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other …” (1 John 1.7a)

Pray a brief prayer of thanksgiving as well for the ultimate vertical blessing we have because of our Savior:

“…  and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.” (1 John 1.7b)

3. End the thoughts of each day well. Consider your last conscious thoughts of the day as your way of preparing and supplying your mind for it’s effort and rest while you sleep. You might do this by going for an evening walk with someone. Try deliberately walking toward the setting sun and discussing John 12.35 as you go. Remember it?

“Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going.”

LIFE group guide: walk in the light

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Nov. 10). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning from John 12.35-36. This sermon is entitled “Walk in the Light” and is another installment in the Jesus: Master & Commander series.

To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues. All Scripture texts reproduced below, unless otherwise noted, are from the CEB.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of the sermon series, or this particular sermon in a series.

To call our attention, and our conscience, to some of our Lord’s direct charges to us.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of the sermon. Underscored words are emphasized in the Greek text.

Jesus spoke to the people again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8.12)

Jesus replied: “The light is with you for only a little while. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going. As long as you have the light, believe in the light so that you might become people whose lives are determined by the light.” (John 12.35-36a)

You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth. Therefore, test everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord, and don’t participate in the unfruitful actions of darkness. (Ephesians 5.8-11a)

All of you are children of light and children of the day. We don’t belong to night or darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5.5)

If we claim, “We have fellowship with him,” and live in the darkness, we are lying and do not act truthfully. But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin. (1 John 1.6-7)

Relation

These icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start thinking, talking, and relating to the topic or texts. Discuss one.

1. Were you/are you afraid of the dark? Tell us about it.

2. Tell us of beauty you’ve seen due to sunlight (e.g. – sunrise, sunset, rainbow, etc.).

3. Do you enjoy walking? If so, share tell us of your walking habits (when, where, etc.).

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. List the parallel thoughts you find in John 3.19-21 and John 12.31-36.

2. In light of John 7.2,37, Jesus likely spoke John 8.12 on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths). Research the ceremonies of this feast that involved light.

3. Using the Scripture texts above, complete this sentence: “When someone allows their life to be daily determined by the light of Christ they ____________.”

Reflection

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.

1. What are some of the biggest blessings you enjoy from living/walking in the light?

2. What danger does light bring to the parts of you that seek darkness?

3. What is it like to be overtaken by darkness, spiritually speaking?

4. Why do you sometimes procrastinate in walking in/toward/with the light of God?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid you in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Watch a day dawn, moving from darkness to light. Meditate on Ephesians 5.8-9 as you do.

2. Go for an evening walk with someone. Walking toward the sunset, discuss John 12.35.

Bruner on John 21.3

 

… I am impressed … in this chapter [John 21] … that John sees Jesus revealing himself, first and most impressively of all, to failing, not succeeding disciples. Jesus is, surprisingly, not recorded here as revealing himself to a prayer meeting (‘surprising’ because Jesus so honors prayer in this Gospel: e.g., ‘asking’ in John 4); ‘coming to me’ in John 6; and then especially in his Discipleship Sermons his repeated promises to ‘asking’ disciples in John 14.13-14; 15.7,16; 16.23,26-27; but perhaps in special particular, by the model of Jesus’ own ‘asking’ in his long, seventeenth-chapter prayer). Nor is Jesus reported here as coming to his disciples when they are gathered in Bible study (though Jesus seeks Christ-centered Bible study, esp. 5.39-40). Rather, John chooses to tell a story that teaches us that Jesus is comes, precisely, to disciples disappointed in their work (Recall Jesus’ first two Beatitudes, Matt. 5.3-4)

Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Eerdmans, 2012), p.1208

Bruner on John 20.19

 

“‘… while the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors because of their fear of the Jewish people …‘ In the mid- and late-first century, the Christian disciples were from time-to time, in fact, gathered together behind locked doors because of their fear of the Jewish (and other) people, if the accounts in the Acts of the Apostles and other first century records are to be trusted. But in the longer subsequent centuries, when Christians became the majority and the Jewish people the minority, it was usually Jews who hid behinds locked doors for fear of Christians. Our present verse must not be allowed to perpetuate the canard of unique Jewish evil; it should, with every reading of comparable texts of Scripture, after a long and sorry history, be an occasion for the Christian confession of sin.”

Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Eerdmans, 2012), p.1161

Bruner on John 16.9

 

“We often wonder what the foundational, basal, fundamental structure of reality is, under all the other foundations, basics and fundamentals: Is it political, economic, social, psychological, scientific, or religious? Though the last option, the religious, usually takes last place in our major media, it is, nevertheless, according to Jesus’ clear teaching here and throughout the Gospel, the fundamental structure of reality. Or more precisely and historically (for ‘religion’ is ambiguous), Jesus the Son of God and the Son of Man himself, in person, is the underlying reality of all realities. (He is every bit as much history as he is ‘religion.’) Therefore, being who he is, the refusal to believe him is the most wrong and hurtful fact in life. Out of this one basic evil flow all the other major evils in the world, in the present conviction of John’s Jesus. Wrong, or sin, most simply put, is rejecting Jesus.”

Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Eerdmans, 2012), pp.925-926

Bruner on John 14.23

 

“The geography of God in believers’ lives is still a puzzle to me. I believe we are to think of the Father as living in heaven above; that is where Jesus prayed to him [see 11.14 and 17.1], even though Jesus spoke earlier in our chapter of ‘the Father who makes his home in me is doing his works,’ 14.10; and heavenward is where he told his disciples to pray to the Father when Jesus gave us our prayer: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven,’ Matt. 6.9. Since the word ‘heaven’ is the Lord’s Prayer is actually the plural ‘heavens’ or ‘skies’ [the dative-plural ouranois], I translate Jesus’ phrase ‘all the skies’ in order to catch the plurality or universality of the Father’s address. I think of the Father in ever sky, above every single head below. Then I believe we are to think of Jesus, the Father’s Son, as reigning at the Father’s right hand in heaven, immediately above us, too. And I believe, finally, that we are to think of the Holy Spirit as hovering just above us as well, like the Dove in Jesus’ baptismal scenes, Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, and John 1. But all three Persons of the Divinity are also ‘in‘ or ‘beside‘ us, from above, in their ability to reach to and into us with their love and directional presence, just as invisible satellites communicate messages into our electronic devices and cell phones and heads and hearts all day long and just as spouses are ‘in one another’ all day long in their love for one another, no matter how far they may be from one another spatially.

“The exact location of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit in our daily lives is not clear to me except that they are, in some miraculous way, near us – perhaps in an unseen ‘fifth’ dimension! – making their homes, from above, with and beside and even in us, and beside and in all of God’s people all over the world.”

Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Eerdmans, 2012), pp.843-844

Bruner on John 13.8

 

“The Footwashing [John 13] is the classic parable of how – almost ‘incredibly’ – Jesus wants to relate perpetually to hid disciples: namely, to be at our service. (But aren’t we at his service? He is Lord. Yet he apparently wishes to live much of his Lordship in the service of his people. This is hard ever to grasp. It must be preached and taught again and again, and believed again and again.) For some mysterious reason we mortals – and not least, we disciples – resist divinity’s free grace, its totally unmerited service of us, its way of saving or ‘salvaging’ us human beings. This story illustrates the Gospel’s truth unforgettably. Moral: Let us let ourselves be loved by the Lord. Let Jesus be our Servant-Lord, not our conscience (in relation to the Lord, that is to say; ethically conscience is, under Christ’s Lordship, often a good guide). Give in. Be washed, simply because Jesus wants to wash us and not because we think or feel we deserve to be washed.”

F.D. Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Eerdmans, 2012), pp.765-766